The AIACC regularly develops proposed changes to state law for legislators to consider introducing as legislation. We focus on developing legislative language that would benefit the architectural profession, the state, and our communities. In 2012 the AIACC Board of Directors voted for the AIACC to pursue four changes to state law, as we previously reported.
One of the bills introduced responds to violations of the Qualifications-Based Selection law. SB 1424, authored by State Senator Tom Harman, addresses the growing trend we are seeing of public entities asking for a fee during the selection phase of public works.
Our approach to this issue is not to strengthen the QBS law by more clearly prohibiting the use of fees during the selection phase – we believe that, for a variety of reasons, including the economy, we would not succeed with that approach – but rather to put language in the architects, engineers, and land surveyors practice acts to prohibit architects, engineers, and land surveyors from providing fees during the selection phase.
This language is intended to empower those professionals to reject a request for a fee, to give them the ability to say, “I am violating the law if I provide a fee, and will be subject to disciplinary measures by the California Architects Board if I provide a fee.”
SB 1424 should have its first hearing in the Legislature in April.
State Senator Mark Wyland has introduced SB 1276 and agreed to work with the AIACC to address the problem architects and other design professionals face when asked to sign indemnification language that obligates the design professional to defend the client upon demand of the client. As you know, this “duty to defend” is an uninsurable obligation and exposes design professionals to costs that can be fatal to the firm.
The AIACC, working with several attorneys, developed legislative language to tackle this problem head-on and require design professionals to defend the client only upon a finding of negligence. However, the message we received from key legislative staff was that such an effort would face a very reluctant state legislature, as a recent past effort faced.
To bring this issue before the legislature this year for discussion and consideration, SB 1276 has been introduced containing “spot bill” language. This means the language we developed with the attorneys was not itself introduced in SB 1276; placeholder language was introduced instead, to enable the discussion.
Our argument that architects and other design professionals are required to serve as the insurance company for legal services for clients—an obligation for which the design professionals cannot obtain insurance, even if the design professional is not the cause of the problem—is understood, and we found sympathetic ears. However, those same ears are equally sympathetic to the arguments of public entities that our proposal would require a trial that finds a design professional negligent before the design professional is obligated to defend the client, and a trial could take years to be resolved.
This is a priority issue to the profession, and we are hoping, with SB 1276, to work with the owner community and their representatives in Sacramento to help them appreciate that the current “duty to defend” contractual environment provides them no protection, as it is an uninsurable obligation to design professionals, and to explore the development of an environment that protects their interests without exposing design professionals to an uninsurable risk that can be fatal to the firm.
The AIACC will work with our attorney and insurer friends throughout this process as we work to find a solution that can be supported and enacted by the State Legislature.
California Environmental Quality Act
The AIACC and AIA Los Angeles are working with several local business groups based throughout California to look at ways to improve the performance of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Over the years, CEQA has become viewed not just as a way to protect our environment and communities from avoidable harm caused by development, but as a tool used by individuals and groups to stop development they do not like or want, or to extract non-environmental concessions from developers.
AIACC members asked the AIACC to make CEQA reform a priority, and the Board of Directors concurred at its November meeting. We joined the effort begun by AIA Los Angeles, working with its local partners, and the AIACC now is playing a leadership/facilitating role with a much larger and growing coalition.
No one involved in this effort is under the impression that reforming CEQA will be an easy task; many have tried and failed over the years. Nevertheless, the AIACC, AIA Los Angeles, and our partners believe a message and path to reform are needed and will be working over the next several months to develop proposed reforms to present to the California Legislature.
Mandatory Continuing Education
The AIACC is not pursuing legislation this year to give the California Architects Board the authority to require a broad-based health, safety, and welfare continuing education as a condition of licensure.
The AIACC sponsored legislation in 2010 to give the CAB this authority, and the bill passed the Legislature without a single “No” vote. However, that bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
Last year, an MCE bill for court reporters was vetoed by Governor Brown, and his veto message provides a clear, philosophical statement in opposition to MCE.
AIACC staff talked with the Governor’s Office and pointed out the differences between court reporters and architects, as justification for an architect MCE bill. However, the response was clear: the Governor would veto such a bill.